Pierz Healy High School gains from surveying seniors

Pierz and other high schools wisely recognized the value of surveying graduates, and seniors about to graduate. Recently I contacted about 35 Minnesota districts and five charter public schools. Twenty-six responded. Just under half do these surveys. But in every case, where it’s done, school officials are gaining useful information.

After talking with Karrie Boser, Pierz High School principal, Pierz Superintendent George Weber reported for the last four years, the school surveyed seniors via computer in the spring.

“Then after we get the data, many of the responses require follow-up in order to gather more info from the seniors. So once each senior is done, the principal has an additional one-on-one meeting to allow each student to expand more on their opinions and responses,” he said.

Results in Pierz included, “Students wanted more rigorous courses in subjects other than just math and science. Students state that they feel that they are not certain how to study well, and they feel they want to be taught how to study. Students feel stressed and not confident in their time management skills. Students feel that they want to be taught more about how to best manage their time and organize their life.”

Weber reported that in response to the survey, “We have added many new classes/courses that expect higher levels of rigor across more disciplines. We now offer more college classes across all areas of study. We emphasize to staff the importance of connecting with students, being actively engaged with students, seeing students in other venues than just the classroom and then following up with them as much as possible. We have questions in the survey regarding the connection to school. In our most recent survey, only eight out of the 90 respondents stated that they do not feel connected to the school.”

Steve Massey, Forest Lake High School principal, reported, “We survey seniors at the end of the year to gather information on their plans after graduation. Our Perkins program surveys graduates during their first year after graduation. The intent of both of these surveys is to gather post-secondary plan data.”

Based on this information, Forest Lake High School has implemented a finals schedule; more advanced placement and CIS courses and a senior picnic on seniors’ last day of school.

Shannon Peterson of Lakes International Charter said, “We’ve only recently started surveying our graduates. We did so this year as part of a self-evaluation process to renew our IB authorization. Based on their feedback about “language ambassadors” being one of the most positive aspects of their experiences at LILA, the PTO voted to authorize hiring additional language ambassadors for next year. Our language ambassador program brings young education majors or recent ed. grads from target-language countries to work as assistants and language/culture models in the classroom.”

Rosemount High School Principal John Wollersheim said, “We survey graduates every year. We use this information to track college access for our students. …we use the section where the students thank teachers. Because “gratitude” is one of our monthly themes – we’ve constructed opportunities for students (to) thank specific teachers. We integrate those responses into staff development days and it always sets a great tone for the day.“

Duane Berkas, director of teaching and learning, Columbia Heights Public Schools told me that the district “has begun tracking its alumni in college through the National Student Clearinghouse. This data (shows) how many of our students are enrolling and completing college. In addition, we are working on maintaining communication with alumni through Facebook and targeted e-mail campaigns.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota Public School teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change, Macalester College. Reactions welcome, [email protected]